Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Other
- MSRP: ¥45,000
- Running time: 1136
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ghost Sweeper Mikami
Ghost Sweeper Mikami DVD-BOX
March 11, 2005
Release Date: January 26, 2005
Ghost Sweeper Mikami DVD-BOX
What They SayThe Review!
The popular 1994 comedy TV series has finally been remastered and released on DVD, and fans of the anime (and worshippers of Tsuru Hiromi and Kouda Mariko) Ghost Sweeper Mikami has never been better.
Audio: We are presented with a solid audio track without crackling or dropouts. The audio is Japanese only in the original mono mix presented on the TV broadcast and various home video releases. To this day I still notice many R1 anime companies misleadingly marketing mono tracks for older TV series as stereo. Audio coming from two channels is not stereo if the data on each is the same, and one thing I particularly like about Japanese R2s is that they don’t attempt to market a monaural track as stereo.
Video: GS Mikami TV was broadcast 11 years ago in 1994. It has been said, with a degree of truth, that the animation style even looked dated back then. The colors tend to have a dull look to them, although they appear brighter and fuller than the original Laserdisc version released shortly after the TV series. This series has been remastered and shows definite improvements over the Laserdisc version. Most of the scratches, marks, and other damage to the print have been removed. Most noticeable is that the frame splices (large grayish lines that often appear in cel animation when there is a scene transition) present on the original versions has been corrected. This improvement especially creates a very pleasurable viewing experience, although there is still a minute amount of camera jitter and grain (it IS cel animation for TV, afterall) but one easily ignores these while actually watching as if they weren’t even there.
Packaging: This boxset consists of four single DVD cases held in a solid chipboard box. The box is fully illustrated with a picture that wraps around the sides of the box. The bottom side contains the technical information about the release. Unlike the previous VHS and LD releases with covers drawn by the character designer Aoyama Mitsuru, the DVDs as well as the box uses original manga-ish covers drawn by the mangaka, Shiina Takashi. The DVDs themselves also form an image when lined up side by side. Each DVD case contains two discs, one on each side of the case. As an interesting little bonus, a replica of one of Mikami’s spiritual wards is placed on the open side of the box from which you take out the discs. To avoid having to throw this away, open only the plastic around the box’s opening without taking off the entire plastic wrap (which you should do anyway because it’s better to keep the plastic on artboxes to prevent dust accumulation and reduce damage to it.) There are two booklets included: a 31 page memorial booklet and a brand new 26-page manga chapter created by Shiina Takashi exclusively for the DVD boxset, as well as a message from him for the fans, but I’ll consider these more as extras rather than packaging for the purpose of this review.
Menus: Like most Japanese anime DVDs, all the discs play the anime instead of going to the menu first. Since only the final disc contains on-disc extras, the menus are very simple but are fast, functional, and easy to use. Since there are no audio or subtitle choices (Japanese only, no subtitles), the menus are simple “pick a scene” style menus with the episode name followed by its number and “opening”, “part a”, “part b”, “preview”, “ending” choices. The background images are Mikami’s spiritual wards and the tarot cards that appear during the eyecatches.
Extras: The extras are a real joy for this release. The memorial booklet contains various, lengthy staff interviews as well as hundreds of line art for characters and buildings. Pictures of OST releases, Drama CDs and VHS and LD covers (all covers front cover only) are included, as well as replicas of the double-sided six-part poster one could assemble after buying all the LDs. Oddly enough though, there is not a replica of the cel transparency included with the first LD volume. There is also a complete staff list and a rather silly “Character Show” segment (“Character Show” meaning when people dress up as the anime characters wearing huge, fake heads and act out skits). It does, however pain me that the line art provided for the DVD-BOX is less than the Laserdisc release. All six LDs had line art printed on the inside cover of the double-disc sets (The LD release had 6 volumes, each volume contained 2 discs containing a total of 8 episodes.) The DVD release, while having plenty of line art, is a mix of both old LD line art and new line art. However, the LDs contained much more line art than the DVD-BOX, which makes me very sad for selling all six of my LDs of the TV series. The brand new manga chapter included is about the misadventures of the GS Mikami cast attenting the debut of the GS Mikami DVD-BOX. As far as on-disc extras there are some good ones. There is the original “New TV Program” preview for episode one and a few TV ads for the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) GS Mikami game, which is actually a decent and entertaining platform action game. The ads themselves are funny as Yokoshima makes perverted comments while looking at a live-action Mikami’s long legs and short skirt. We also get the creditless opening and ending animation sequences.
The real prize though is a forty-minute discussion between the principle voice actors for the series: Tsuru Hiromi (Mikami), Kouda Mariko (Okinu-chan), and Horikawa Ryou (Yokoshima). It’s fairly engrossing to watch as they reminisce about their roles in a series they performed in a decade ago. It’s also amusing because Kouda Mariko appears doing Okinu-chan cosplay. I liked looking at and hearing from Mariko and Horomi, as they were fairly active in the early 90s in anime voice acting but now, much like Hayashibara Megumi, don’t show up much anymore. As a mild Mariko fan, Mariko still looks like she’s in her twenties, as if not a day as past since she was a J-pop and anime idol (even though now she’s in her mid-thirties). And Hiromi… well, she’s turning forty-five on March 29th, and she’s not looking as hot as she did in those live action Gall Force interviews back in the late 80s. But she still has the sexy, sexy Hiromi voice which we all love and associate with Lufy and Madoka, so all is good.
I’ve been a fan of Ghost Sweeper Mikami since I randomly discovered it on VHS fansubs back in 1998 after I had been watching anime fairly intensively for about a year. I enjoyed it greatly and held a torch in my heart for it. When I discovered the LDs for sell a year ago and fearing a DVD release would not happen, I jumped on them. But for some reason, the series has never been very popular with American anime fans even though one would think its excellent blend of action and comedy would slate it as a perfect candidate for US distribution, especially since Phantom Quest Corp, essentially a lower quality *ahem* “Mikami-inspired” OVA series seemed to perform well in the states. GS Mikami has enjoyed much success in Japan in both anime and manga forms: the anime received a well-watched 45-episode TV series and well as a full-length movie feature released on the usual Toei Animation triple feature with the third Ranma ½ movie and Heisei Period Dog Tale Bow movie. The manga itself enjoyed a run over thirty collected volumes. It’s been rumored that Manga Entertainment optioned the TV series along with the ending movie (which they did actually release) but that the series’ comedic nature didn’t mix well with Manga’s sci-fi and action lineup and was eventually dropped. It’s a real shame the TV series hasn’t been released in the states (yet a blessing it wasn’t released by Manga) because it’s a highly entertaining and funny program. For years the best summation I have used for the GS Mikami anime is “Ranma ½ meets Ghostbusters.”
Ghost Sweeper Mikami introduces us to a Japan of the mid-90s in which demons and spirits run amok, causing much trouble for everyday, peace-loving citizens. Their “savior” takes the unlikely form of the Mikami Reiko, a smart and sexy female exorcist whose skill in sending troublesome spirits to Paradise is only equaled by her insatiable lust for money; her fees typically run in the upwards of billions of yen, of which she pays her perverted and mostly useless male assistant Yokoshima, whom she often manipulates to do the most dangerous and life-threatening jobs, a lousy hundred yen an hour… if that much. (I always wonder how he manages not to starve to death.)
Much like Ranma ½, GS Mikami gradually comes to introduce and include a moderately large cast of characters: Okinu-chan, a spirit of a shrine maiden unable to leave this world; Emi, a rival shamanistic exorcist; Meiko, a shy girl who uncontrollably releases Shinigami from her body when upset; the immortal and mad scientist Dr. Chaos and his android helper Maria; half-vampire Peitro; Mikami’s mentor and Catholic priest Father Karasu (in a nod to the film “The Exorcist”), the narrator who is a hand puppet, and others. These cast members form the bases for the various misadventures of Mikami and Yokoshima, often with them alternatively helping and competing against one another to exorcise spirits and collect the fee or to obtain relics with great spiritual power. Although some of the characters would seem unlikable, (Mikami is a horribly selfish, manipulative, and insufferable bit… um, a “not nice woman” and Dr. Chaos spends most of his time plotting the death of Mikami and Yokoshima) the comedic atmosphere of the series makes everyone more enjoyable and entertaining than if it were a comedy. It’s hard to dislike Dr. Chaos for finally concocting the perfect scheme to eliminate Mikami when his landlady come and beats him up and kicks him out of his apartment for not paying the rent.
While I love Ghost Sweeper Mikami to death, I find I cannot bring myself to give it a higher score for content because it doesn’t tell a larger story. The episodes, with the exception of some two-parters, are extremely entertaining but they are mostly self-contained adventures. There is no larger hint of a moving plot line nor is there great deal of character development either. On the positive side of things, unlike the curse that brought down the second half of Ranma ½, Ghost Sweeper Mikami’s stories all remain fresh and funny throughout the entire series. I can’t say there was a single bad episode or one that just wasn’t up to snuff with the others.
If you’re already a fan of the series or enjoy comedic action shows, this series is definitely for you. While it is an older TV series, it is better animated than a lot of the TV series we’re seeing in 2005 and I personally enjoy it much more as well. The extensive remastering, extras, and relatively low selling price for a R2 make this boxset very attractive. Now all we need is a R2 release of the movie to complete the franchise and rid ourselves of the horrible aftertaste the butchered Manga Entertainment version left in our mouths.
Toshiba 21” TV, Daewoo DVD-5700 Player, S-video cables